Drives of a Lifetime: Manali - Leh
Drives of a Lifetime: Manali - Leh
Duration 10 nights 11 days

This stunning journey begins in Manali and continues for nearly 500 km through the high Himalayas & over majestic passes to reach Leh. The suggested route ensures gradual acclimatization, so that you reach Leh in fine fettle to enjoy exploring the rest of Ladakh and seeing not only must-see places like the ethereal turquoise hued Pangong Tso & the surprisingly verdant valley of Nubra, but also lesser explored gems like Turtuk. The visual delights would be aptly complemented by some firsthand experiences of the local lifestyle & traditions like a Ladakhi meal in an ancient village home at Stok…

    Day 1: Arrive Manali

    Reach Manali by any of these modes:

    Board a morning flight from Delhi to reach Kulu Airport around 8AM. Drive 1 ½ hrs to reach Solang in about 2 hrs. 
    On the previous evening board a HPTDC Volvo Coach from Delhi & reach Manali Bus Stand at about 0730 hrs. Drive about 20 minutes to reach Solang Valley around 0800 hrs. Rest of the day at leisure in Solang – check out Paragliding, Zorbing, Hiking…Shop/Sightseeing in Manali.
    On the previous night board Himachal Express travel overnight by 2/3 AC to reach Kiratpur Sahib at 0600 hrs. Drive 245 km / 7 hrs to reach Solang in the afternoon. Rest of the day at leisure in Solang or Shopping / Sightseeing in Manali.
    Board the morning Kalka Shatabdi to Chandigarh or take a morning flight from Mumbai. Reach Chandigarh around noon. Drive 330 km / 9 hrs to reach Solang at night.
    Leave at dawn from Delhi and drive 570 km / 13 hrs to reach 

    Everyone meets at dinner, for familiarization with each other and your escort.  Stay overnight at a hotel in Solang.

    Day 2: Manali – Jispa (3150 M / 10300 ft) 160 km

    Leave around 0630- 0700 hrs after an early breakfast to avoid traffic en route Rohtang. We drive across the pass into the starkly barren landscape of Lahaul and at Tandi we stop for lunch at a Dhaba in Tandi – also the confluence point of the Chandra & Bhaga Rivers to form Chenab. Reach Jispa by late afternoon. Avoid strenuous activity but go for a short acclimatization walk. Stay overnight in a campsite & lodge besides the Bhaga River

    Overnight Stay: Safari Tents at Padma Lodge & Campsite
    Meals Included: B & D

    Day 3: Jispa - day hike to Darcha trekking point

    For gentler, copy book acclimatization it’s best that you spend this day (& night) too in Jispa and do some walking/hiking. This way you also avoid the daunting combination of inclement weather & rudimentary campsites that staying in Serchu entails. Those interested can do a beautiful guided hike across the river to the Darcha Trekking Point - about 4 hrs totally. Others may just relax in the campsite, enjoying the serene, peaceful ambience and strolling around a bit to enhance acclimatization.
    Overnight Stay: Safari Tents at Padma Lodge & Campsite
    Meals Included: B, Picnic (or Hot) L & D

    Day 4: Jispa – Leh 339 km/11-12 hrs (3505 M)

    Start at about 0530 hrs carrying packed breakfast. Drive over Baralacha La and then via Serchu, negotiate the hair- rising Gata Loops - 21 back–to- back switchbacks. Cross Naki La (4740 M) & Lachalung La (5060 M); drive through the vast, amazingly stark Moray Plains. Cross Tanglang La (5328 M) and finally reach Leh by evening. Overnight stay in rooms at a small, cozy & comfortable guesthouse.
    Overnight Stay: Deluxe Room at Oriental Guest House/similar 
    Meals Included: Packed B, Packed L & D

    Day 5: Leh – visit select gompas, monuments… a

    After breakfast visit Shey & Thiksey Gompas. On the drive back take a detour across the Indus to Stok. See the palace & museum here, before going to 300 yr old traditional home high up in the village, to enjoy a Ladakhi meal. Late afternoon and evening at leisure in Leh – see the palace & walk around in the bazaar. Around 1730 hrs we leave on a beautiful drive of about 45 mins on the picturesque Srinagar Highway to spend sunset at Nimmu – the confluence point of the Indus & Zanskar Rivers, and also stop at Magnetic Point to enjoy the experience of seeing your vehicle slowly move uphill on its own – with the engine switched-off. Though it’s proven that it is just an optical illusion, the visual effect is eerie. Be back at your guesthouse for dinner.
    Overnight Stay: Deluxe Room at Oriental Guest House/similar
    Meals Included: B, L & D

    Day 6: Leh – Nubra Valley at Turtuk (avg. alt. o

    Post breakfast, leave on a stunning drive over the mighty Khardung La (5602 M) into the verdant Nubra Valley. Reach the base of the valley at Khalsar. Here the road forks & the broad valley get divided into two distinct parts by the Shyok & Nubra Rivers. Of course, the road forks too; the RHS branch goes all the way to Siachen Glacier. Move on the other branch, via Deskit & Hunder, past the Thoise Airfield. The wide open Nubra Valley starts closing in dramatically with the rocky mountain face getting darker & darker, finally bursting out into the verdant & vibrant Turtuk area at the north western end of the valley. Check into safari tents at a verdant campsite amidst fields & orchards, sprinkled with clumps of wild & vibrantly colored blooms. Relax for a while, have evening cuppa, and go for a short stroll to enjoy the sunset. 
    Overnight Stay: Deluxe Safari Tents at Turtuk Holiday Camp/similar
    Meals included: B, Packed L & D

    Day 7: In Turtuk – short walks / hikes & traditi

    Post breakfast spend 2- 3 hrs walking in & around the villages, interacting with the warm & hospitable locals sporting European looks. The cherubic kids are especially adorable. Get back to the campsite & enjoy a traditional Balti meal – so tasteful, nutritious and salubrious a diet that even 80- 90 yr olds in the villages are active & full of life. Later go for a hike & explore the fantastic, totally pristine natural beauty all around.
    Overnight Stay: Deluxe Safari Tents at Turtuk Holiday Camp/similar
    Meals included: B, Traditional Balti L & D

    Day 8: Turtuk – Deskit 92 kms / 3 hrs

    Post leisurely breakfast, leave Turtuk for Deskit. On the drive back stop at the dunes of Hunder, here those interested can enjoy a ride on the Double Humped Camels. Reach Deskit by late afternoon. After freshening up, relaxing for a while & evening cuppa, go to a vantage point with a huge outdoor statue of the Sakhyamuni Buddha near Deskit Gompa to enjoy great sunset views. Stay overnight in a hotel at Deskit.
    Overnight Stay: Standard Rooms at Hotel Stendel/similar
    Meals included: B, L & D

    Day 9: Deskit–Khardung La - Pangong Tso (4260M)

    Leave post an early breakfast, on a drive to Pangon Tso over Khardung La and imposing Chang-La (5,475 M / 17950 ft). Go over the pass and carry on via Tangse and finally reach the grand Pangong Lake by evening, in time to catch the sunset views. Stay overnight in tents at a campsite bang on the lake shore.
    Overnight Stay: Safari Tents at Pangong Delight Camp/similar
    Meals Included: B, Packed L & D.

    Day 10: Pangong Tso – Leh 150 km / 5 hrs

    Enjoy early morning cuppa & a spectacular sunrise by the lake shore. Post breakfast, drive back to Leh. Reach Leh by afternoon. Rest a while and leave for the bazaar to shop for Thangkas, Chunky antique Silver Jewelry with Turquoise embellishments, mementos, Apricots & apricot based beauty products… Spend sunset at Shanti Stupa for unforgettable views of Leh Valley & town. Bid your adieus as you enjoy a grand farewell dinner at Summer Harvest restaurant and reach you guesthouse in time to turn in for the night.
    Overnight Stay: Deluxe Rooms at Oriental Guest House
    Meals Included: B, Packed L & D at Summer Harvest

    Day 11: Depart Leh

    Morning transfer to the airport in time for your return flight to Delhi.

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